HenCliff Honey is the Bee’s Knees

Ian and Melissa with their 12-year-old son, Nik.

Ian and Melissa with their 12-year-old son, Nik.

Starry filled nighttime skies. Wide open spaces to roam. The feel of the sun shining on your face. The smell of harvest in the air…

These are the reasons most farmers enjoy living in rural areas, making a living doing what they love. It’s why Ian Pitzenberger desired to farm. It’s also why he and his wife, Melissa, feel blessed to raise their family on a farm. They’re enjoying keeping farming traditions, while giving their own farm a “flavor” of its own.

Ian has “officially” been raising seed beans for Latham Hi-Tech Seeds since 2004, but he actually grew up helping his dad raise them on the Tyden No. 6 Farm in Dougherty, Iowa. Aftergraduating in 1999 from Greene High School, Ian attended Kirkwood Community College for two years and then transferred to Iowa State University where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree. He then took a full-time job at a local co-op for a year until he had the opportunity to rent a farm. Today Ian and Melissa farm with Ian’s parents, Ted and Judy Pitzenberger, and Ian’s brother Phil and his wife, Lyndsie.

Ian with his daughter, Eliyah, who was born in January 2014

Ian with his daughter, Eliyah, who was born in January 2014

“My dad is the glue of the operation; he keeps all of us together and running. Phil takes care of the business side. He’s the number cruncher and keeps our profits in the green. I’m the “service manager.” I keep the equipment running as efficiently as possible,” says Ian.

In addition to raising row crops, this year Ian and his son started keeping bees and producing honey. They wanted to diversify their operation, as well as help the environment since there has been so much talk about bees disappearing.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our children to learn responsibility and to make some money at the same time,” says Ian. “I also wanted a chance to help make a difference. Without bees, there is no pollination. Without pollination, plants die.”

Another advantage of keeping bees is that it’s relatively inexpensive to start plus the turnaround time is relatively low. The Pitzenbergers harvested their first honey within two months. After collecting the combs, they extract the honey and run it through a screen to remove wax and particulates. Then it’s bottled – raw.

On June 22, the bees were just starting the comb. On Sept. 7, Ian and Nik harvested the last of their first-year honey.

On June 22, the bees were just starting the comb. On Sept. 7, Ian and Nik harvested the last of their first-year honey.

“We don’t use any heat in the process because heat destroys all the vital ingredients that give honey its healthful properties,” says Ian, who keeps the bees on the farm where his mother was raised by her parents, Henrietta and Clifford. To honor his maternal grandparents, the product is labeled HenCliff Honey. This first season has definitely been a learning experience, but it’s been a good experience.

“With any job or hobby, there are several ups and downs,” says Ian. “In the end, beekeeping is worth it because it does so much good for the environment and it results in healthy products.”

Honey is extremely versatile, from the medicine cabinet and bathroom vanity to the gym bag and kitchen cupboard. Honey attracts and retains moisture, so it’s used in many beauty and healthcare products. With approximately 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon, honey is an effective and all-natural energy booster. It’s also a natural cough suppressant, helping soothe and relieve irritation from coughing.

To purchase your own bottle of HenCliff Honey, participate in the 2nd Annual Franklin County (Iowa) Farm Crawl. This event will be held on Sunday, Sept. 28, from noon to 6 PM. Three local farms will participate, and each farm will host other local farmers, who will offer samples of everything from grilled goat and ostrich to aronia berries and local wine. HenCliff Honey will be available for purchase at Enchanted Acres pumpkin patch, 1071 250th Street, Sheffield, Iowa.

Buy a bottle and celebrate National Honey Month at home! Ian says his favorite way to enjoy honey is with toast and peanut butter because it’s simply delicious. In honor of September National Honey Month, the National Honey Board is sharing recipes for everything from simple After School Snacks to gourmet entrees like Orange Blossom Honey-Seared Halibut.

Because I enjoy making quick breads – and I have a passion for all things pumpkin – I’m looking forward to baking up a patch of this Pumpkin Honey Bread. What’s your favorite way to enjoy honey?

Pumpkin Honey Bread



  • 1 cup - honey
  • 1/2 cup - butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 can (16 oz.) - solid-pack pumpkin
  • 4 - eggs
  • 4 cups - flour
  • 4 teaspoons - baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons - ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons - ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon - baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon - salt
  • 1 teaspoon - ground nutmeg



In large bowl, cream honey with butter until light and fluffy. Stir in pumpkin. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Sift together remaining ingredients. Stir into pumpkin mixture. Divide batter equally between two well-greased 9 x5 x 3-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let loaves cool in pans for 10 minutes; invert pans to remove loaves and allow to finish cooling on racks.